- Gender and Relationships
Kahana on Same Sex Marriage
For those of you that have read my articles over the years, you will know that it is a very rare event for me to write on the Sabbath. The only time I have done so, is when I felt it was necessary for me to sermonize on an event that is directly related to our religious practices. Today, such an event has occurred and as has always been the vocation of the Kahana, it is time for me to speak out when our religion, the religion of our ancestors is violated. Unfortunately, there will be those that will accuse me from the content of this article of being bigoted, prejudiced, gender biased, and so on, but those that do know me personally know that if anything, I have the capacity for great tolerance, perhaps not so much when it directly involves family members (as they will likely comment), but to all others I am very accepting. So before anyone points an accusatory finger in my direction, I ask that you read this article in the context of which I'm writing it, and not in the perspective of your own personal views, because if you take the time to do so, you will realize that they are entirely two very different matters. We all know what is written in Leviticus 18 and I have always argued that the statements expressed as laws are not about physically executing a death penalty when it says "to be cut off", but spiritually doing so. Essentially it is saying that a person that violates these statutes cannot be part of our religious community but does not say that they cannot still be befriended or belong to some other religion that is not governed by the Torah. One could even argue that "vomited from the land" means that they are to be exiled, but since the majority of our people already live in exile, of what significance would that be now. So the impetus for writing this article is not about the ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States which has ruled that same sex marriage is a legal right of all Americans no matter which state they live in, but the subsequent statements by the Jewish Councils in the USA which have praised the ruling and hailed it as a wonderful event which they fully support. As I have stated, it is one thing for other religions, or other countries to make laws that are in conflict with Judaism as stipulated in the Torah, they are not bound by our laws, and it is their own affair to deal with God's wrath when it comes their time, but it is certainly not acceptable for our religious leaders now or ever, to place us in direct conflict with the Almighty for that will surely seal our doom as a nation and as a people. Just as God has said in Leviticus 18 that he expelled every nation that preceded the Children of Israel from the land because of such practices, if we permit our religious leaders to place ourselves above His laws and His practices, then we are no longer the Children of Israel. We are the people of Moloch and we have permitted ourselves to be corrupted to a level from which we will never recover..
An Oath to God
"Huray At Mikudeshit Li Betaba-at Zu Cadat Moshe ve Israel". Remember those words because they are as old as our people are themselves. They are the vow we undertake at our time of marriage. When we pledge to bind ourselves to our soul mate according to the Laws of Moses and Israel. What hypocrisy it would be for us to stand under the hupah and say those words when we are in direct conflict with those very laws we are swearing an oath to. How deceptive it would be for our religious leaders to conduct the ceremony, permitting us to say those words, when they know the oath is false and a violation of God's own ordinance. By having us swear a false oath in those circumstances, they are actually pronouncing a death sentence for those two people, whether they be two men or two women, or any other prohibited combination as mentioned in Chapter 18, because God does take the oaths sworn in His name very seriously because it would be a direct violation of the Third Commandment of the Decalogue which are the supreme law as handed to us at Sinai. So how then, could our religious leaders praise the decision of the Supreme Court as it applies to Jews. Do these Rabbanites still consider themselves better than God, smarter than the Lord, more powerful than the Almighty. Rather they should have stayed quiet, let the people of other nations do what they do, practice what they wish to practice, but they never should have added their voices as if they speak for us because I for one will not accept marriage in the religious context to be anything other than is written according to the law as given to us by God. A civil union of two people of the same sex I can accept without any issue. I can appreciate that there are those that prefer members of their own sex. It may be hormonal, it may be genetic, it can even be entirely psychological, and for those reasons I believe no man or woman should ever be condemned from finding true love and as a society we must accommodate such relationships but as a religion, I do not believe we must be placed in a position that we must sanctify such unions in the name of God. That is where I take exception; that is where I draw the line. Marriage is as God defined it. When men start redefining such basic fundamental concepts then we will find ourselves standing at the edge of a very dangerous precipice.
A Constant Reminder
These are pictures of our Ketubah, the binding agreement that Ying and myself signed, signifying our religious commitment to our marriage. It hangs above our dining room table, a reminder every time we gather to eat that we have made a pledge to one another before the Almighty. One can argue that just like any other contract it can be broken, and so many marriages do end up in divorce. It's not easy forging a lasting relationship. Perhaps the reason Karaism still preserves a polygamous right in its marriage traditions is to ensure that marriages will still be maintained as there is no need to break the prior marriage in order to forge a new one. That is not for me to answer but I will leave to those of our community that do have a polygamous life style. I can only speak of divorce to which I do have experience, but I will state that entry into each marriage was done so with the hope and fervent wish that they would last forever. By hanging the Ketubah in a public place where it is a constant reminder, it does have a direct impact on making certain that we remember we did pledge the oath before God and therefore we have an obligation to try and make it work not only for our own sakes but for His sake as well. So let us not turn marriage into an event that actually offends God. Let marriage remain a spiritual and religious event that permits God to be a witness to our decision to be one. Let Civil Unions or whatever else they wish to call them be evidence of a commitment to be together in love for those that are outside the permissions of Leviticus 18. Don't force us to make a decision between the State and God because in the end that is one war that we all will lose.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana